Nail fungus may not be the most “serious” condition out there in a medical sense—most cases don’t cause pain or pose significant health risks, unless your immune system is otherwise suppressed due to illness or medication—but there’s no question it’s one of the most unpleasant.
Fungal infections cause toenails to appear yellow, thick, crumbly, and distorted. It’s definitely unsightly and, for many people, quite embarrassing (although it’s much more common than you might think).
Toenail fungus is a hardy infection that takes time and patience to eradicate. However, good treatment options exist.
Causes and Risk Factors
The space under your toenails offers inviting conditions for fungus to live and thrive. It’s dark, warm, moist, and provides plenty of the nutrients they need. Furthermore, because it’s protected by a thick nail, a fungal toenail infection will not improve without treatment, and topical medications are almost always ineffective—they can’t get through the nail to the fungal microbes.
The fungi may initially invade via a tiny separation between the nail and skin or through small cuts on your toe. They can spread through contact with infected surfaces, such as swimming pools, showers, locker rooms, playgrounds, the inside of shoes, or other places with the dark, warm, moist conditions they need to survive.
Weakened immune conditions (such as diabetes) and age (due to more years of exposure) are other common risk factors.
Traditional Treatment Procedure—Oral Medications
Historically, podiatrists have used prescription oral antifungal medication to eradicate toenail fungus, and this remains an option available to patients. Drugs are usually administered for 6-12 weeks, sometimes longer, to kill the underlying infection. You won’t initially be able to see the effects, but if the fungus truly has been eliminated, new healthy nail will grow and slowly push the warped section off and out over a period of several months.
Unfortunately, these antifungals can cause side effects, sometimes severe, including rashes and liver problems. Regular blood tests are often necessary to make sure you can keep taking the medication safely. Traditional treatment also has a relatively high failure rate, perhaps 25% of cases.
Advanced Treatment—Laser Therapy
In the past few years, laser therapy has emerged as a leading treatment for fungal toenails. Massapequa Podiatry Associates was the first location on Long Island to feature the Noveon laser system for this condition.
Laser treatment uses gentle light beams at wavelengths that are designed to pass through the nail and attack the fungus hiding underneath, sterilizing the tissue and killing the microbes living there. The procedure does not require anesthesia, is not painful or uncomfortable, is completely safe with no known side effects, and boasts a much higher success rate than traditional treatment.
A typical treatment course requires anywhere from 2-4 sessions of up to 30 minutes each, though it can vary slightly depending on the particulars of your condition.
Last Resort—Surgical Treatment
In rare cases where the infection is severe or keeps returning, we may recommend removing the nail surgically in order to treat the fungus directly. If the nail grows back and is still disfigured, we can consider destroying the nail matrix, preventing a new nail from growing at all.
Take Your Beautiful Feet Back
You don’t have to keep living with ugly, thick, distorted, embarrassing toenails, but you need to take action. You can’t outwait them—without treatment, fungal nails will not get better, and they’ll last as long as you do.
Want your pretty beach feet back? Call Dr. Corey Fox at Massapequa Podiatry Associates on Long Island to discuss treatment options right for you. It will take time for healthy nail to replace the disfigured portion, but most people do see significant (if gradual) improvement over the course of several months.